Sexual Harassmentpsychology Essay
Violence against women, according to the definition set out by the United Nations, is “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”. Sexual harassment in the workplace fits into this definition and despite the strong evidence that it is a serious problem here in Trinidad and Tobago; there are as yet no comprehensive laws to provide relief to victims, or serious penalties to perpetrators.
The only way in handling sexual harassment in the workplace is to change Legislation to protect complainants, introduce a more stringent policy documents in the work place and sensitize employees of their rights as it relates to sexual harassment in the workplace. Firstly, Trinidad and Tobago’s legislation, as far as i am aware of, does not speak directly to sexual harassment, even though the Equal Opportunity Act and the Industrial Relation Act does and prohibits sexual harassment.
While in other Countries, sexual harassment has been found to constitute to sex discrimination. At present, the law does not create a criminal offence of discriminatory acts against offenders who sexual assault people in the workplace. Rather its major focus of the Legislation only provides a framework for defining discrimination and providing avenues for redress to discrimination. So as employers / supervisors we are faced with the task of properly reporting and investigating all acts of sexual harassment as clinically and with utmost urgency.
In recent years, anti-harassment provisions have been included in many of the collective agreements between local companies and trade unions in Trinidad and Tobago. However, these don’t offer any range of protections and reliefs that can be afforded to victims of sexual harassment legally. This has been a serious shortcoming that needs to be urgently addressed. There is need for stiffer penalties and criminal proceedings implemented against these perpetrators. Like domestic violence, sexual harassment has often been casually dismissed as “man and woman thing” and even accepted as evidence of machismo.
Some women who complain tend to be subjected to ridicule, about “taking a joke too seriously”, while the perpetrator might be lauded as a “real man”. These attitudes, coupled with the lack of real protection under the law, have made it very difficult to deal decisively with this particular type of violence against women. With stiffer legislation afforded and available, these actions would be hindered and refrain from being done. Hostile work environment harassment are occurring more frequent these days and are often much harder to pinpoint legally.
While male – female sexual harassment still is most typical, the incidence of female – on – male and same – sex harassment is also rising. In another way, if sexual harassment laws are introduced in this country, employers will be required to keep workplaces free from harassment by introducing a more stringent policy document and enforcing them. At present, any measures to deter sexual harassment are entirely up to the employer. A comprehensive Policy in the workplace will ensure that there are clearly defined guidelines and procedures for quick response in the event of a complaint.
The employer can be required to develop policies on sexual harassment, general harassment and how investigations are conducted in the workplace. With the Legislation as a support, should include making employers responsible for taking every sexual harassment complaint seriously and initiating an investigation. Anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment, regardless of age, position or gender. Many companies have now introduced a lot of explicit policies against sexual harassment. According to Alan Kopit, legal editor of lawyers. om, every employee when starting a new job should become familiar with this policy, as well as the internal grievance procedure in place to address instances of harassment. The Employer/supervisors are also empowered to inform, guide and implement these policies according to the situation or incidents as it occurs immediately and the penalties that follow if found contravening these policy guidelines. Finally, all employees should know their rights and responsibilities when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace.
They should be sensitized to know what to do, where to go and who to report to when harassment occurs. As any employee who believes he or she has been the target of sexual harassment is encouraged to inform the offending person orally or in writing that such conduct is unwelcome and offensive and must stop. But if the employee does not wish to communicate directly with the offending person, or if such communication has been ineffective, the employee has multiple avenues for reporting allegations of sexual harassment and/or pursuing resolution.
Employees who believe they have been subjected to sexual harassment may elect to pursue resolution in several ways, such as given the opportunity of mediation, reporting grievances and forms of redress against the offending person. If disciplinary action is to be taken, the employer / supervisor must first conclude if the harassment has been violate and that the discipline should reflect the violation. Also know that false accusations and information would be grounds for discipline and possibly termination.
However, it is important as employers / supervisors to convey this information in a way that does not discourage good-faith reports. We as employers/supervisors need to understand the seriousness and sensitivity of this subject in its entirety to fully understand its dynamics. We all acknowledged that sexual harassment compromises safety and welfare in the workplace and can impact negatively on a company’s economic activity. This practice has been linked to increased sickness, decreased productivity, and increased turnover of staff.
It also sends a message to all employees about the organization’s commitment to protecting its workforce from harassment. If Trinidad and Tobago wants to be truly be committed to the elimination of all forms of discrimination against their employees, immediate steps should always be taken to ensure that our working women\ employees have effective protection, legal and otherwise, via improved legislations, policies and educated employees knowing their rights in handling and alleviating sexual harassment in the workplace totally.